Former champ expects to beat Phil Davis and get confronted by current champ
For the last year and a half, Rashad Evans has been considered the No. 1 contender to the UFC light heavyweight crown. On multiple occasions, “Suga’s” quest to reclaim the title he once held came within reach, but injury and circumstance pushed the opportunity further down the line.
In the Saturday main event of UFC on Fox: Evans vs. Davis, Evans will face prospect-turned-contender Phil Davis. UFC president Dana White has confirmed if Evans is able to claim victory Saturday night, the fight he has been waiting for against champion Jon Jones will become a reality.
While the path to the top of the division hasn’t been without struggle, Evans has found peace and meaning in the journey.
“It’s been a tough year with a lot of ups and downs,” Evans told HeavyMMA. “It has taught me a lot about life. It’s taught me about the way things flow and how you can’t predict what is put in front of you. In order to get past the obstacles on your path, you have to be mentally strong. I’ve learned how to do that now.
“I’ve grown a lot over this past year. I realized I have to be ready whenever my number is called. I try to stay prepared and that is the reason I spend the majority of my time in South Florida. I want to be ready to go whenever I’m needed. I also want to be ready to handle the ebb and flow of whatever happens. I don’t know how long I’m going to be blessed to fight. I don’t know how long my body is going to hold up. I want to make sure I burn it all out to the best of my ability, and when my career is over I can walk away without regrets.”
The fight against Davis originally was planned for UFC 133 in Philadelphia, but injury forced Davis off the card. Having spent the better part of two training camps preparing, both fighters have traded their fair share of pre-fight barbs. While Evans enjoys the back and forth, he doesn’t believe Davis’ talking or talent is going to be enough to stop him.
“I like Phil getting involved in the talking game,” Evans said. “I like him trying to step up and talk trash. The kid has a little bit of character, and I like that, but he can’t match me. This is what I do.
“He is going to try to use his reach and wrestling, but I’m not worried about that. I think when it comes down to it, I’m going to be able to get off what I’m looking to get off. I’m going to be able to unload and let them hands go. It’s going to be an exciting fight. I’m coming out to fight hard, and it’s going to be something fun for fans to watch. After I win, Jon Jones might come into the cage and ruin my special night. It’s just not fair.”
The issue with Jones, Evans’ former teammate, made a stir in the MMA world when Evans gave an interview describing his feelings on the matter in addition to details of what was happening at Jackson’s MMA. In the aftermath, Evans severed ties with his long-time coaches Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn. While Evans has found a new home training with the “Blackzilians” in Boca Raton, Fla., he sees the same issue happening once again at his former gym.
“The whole Team Jacksons situation is evident once again with what is happening with Carlos Condit and Georges St-Pierre,” Evans said. “Here you are with GSP, and he is the guy who helped Greg Jackson make his name. Whenever anyone asks if he has a UFC champion, he would say Georges St-Pierre. So then he invites another 170-pound fighter in the mix who will eventually fight your champion, the guy he has been with for the longest time. Now, when those two have to fight, [Greg] says he doesn’t want anything to do with it. What about your guy? Where is the loyalty? It has to be somewhere. You have to have at least some loyalty to somebody.
“Teaming up with the Blackzilians is a unique situation. It was started by Danillo Villefort, Yuri Villefort, JZ Cavalcante and Jorge Santiago. They invited me to join their group because they had just left American Top Team and were looking to get something else started. I joined them and everything started coming together.
“To be a team in MMA, you have to be diligent about keeping the lines of communication open. A lot of times it is ego that gets in the way, or one person is trying to become a star over the rest of the group. It ends up compromising everyone else’s relationships.”
Despite his success in mixed martial arts, Evans has never been considered a fan favorite. The former champion is among a small collection of fighters who draw the ire of the outspoken MMA community and even though he will be fighting in the city he calls home, he imagines the reaction will be the same as it has always been.
“I expect to get booed like crazy,” Evans said. “I expect it to happen, and I’m not going to worry about it if I do. It is like everywhere else I go. They boo me and five minutes later ask for an autograph or to have their picture taken.”